UBUNTU, very few of you have come across this word. It is derived from the Zulu and Xhosa tribes in Africa. The best way to understand this word or concept is with an example.
An anthropologist studying the habits and customs of an African tribe found himself surrounded by children most of the days. So, he decided to play a game with them. He managed to get candy from the nearest town and put it in a decorated basket at the foot of a tree. When the anthropologist said “Now”, the children had to run to the tree and the first one to get there could have all the candy to him/herself. So, the children all lined up waiting for the signal. When the anthropologist said “now”, all of the children took each other by the hand and ran together towards the tree. They all arrived at the same time, divided up the candy, sat down and began to munch away happily. The anthropologist went over to them and asked them, why they all ran together when anyone of them could have had the candy all to themselves. The children answered “Ubuntu. How could any one of us be happy if all the others were sad?”
The Liberian peace activist, Leymah Roberta Gbowee, defined Ubuntu like this: I am what I am because of who we all are. Archbishop Desmond Tutu explains Ubuntu as the essence of being human; you cannot exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You cannot be human all by yourself. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas we are connected and what we do affects the whole world. When we do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity. In tribal Africa, when someone is sentenced to death he is driven into the forest where is forced to live in isolation. No hanging, no cyanide, the loneliness and the fact that he is cut off from the community eventually causes him to die a miserable death.
In 1961, Pope John XXIII wrote his first encyclical Mother and Teacher (Mater et Magistra), where he notices “a growing network of relationships” during that period of time. He called it “socializazzione”. Some people thought he was introducing ideas of socialism. What he had in mind was Ubuntu, our interconnectedness. That is why he addressed the encyclical to people of good will. He wanted the benefits that the developed countries were enjoying should be available to the countries who had just obtained their independence. Little did Pope John dream that 56 years later thanks to the internet, the world has indeed become a global village, where an event that takes place in one part of the world is transmitted all over the world in a few seconds.
In his homily on our parish feast, Bishop Bosco Penha elaborated on the theme St. Andrew Church has chosen as our special area of focus for the coming year viz. “Reaching out to the marginalised”. He spoke of St. Andrew as one family, where the whole family takes special care of the weak and the needy. He dwelt particularly on Acts 4: 34 “there was not a needy person among them”. Our sense of belongingness as members of one family, one large community (Ubuntu) should drive us to make sure that no one in the parish should lack basic needs.
Christmas is around the corner. Usually we have a good, enjoyable time at Christmas. For me, as a young boy, joy or sadness depended on the gift I received from Santa Claus. Fr. Magi Murzello, St. Andrew School’s Principal and the Rector of St. Andrew College, came up with a novel idea and theme for Christmas this year. “inJoy Christmas” where the focus is not on enjoying Christmas, but spreading and sharing the inner joy of Christmas all around: our families, our neighbourhoods, and our communities.
Jesus was born 2000 years ago, but the message he gave to us all was JOY TO THE WORLD.
Parish Priest, Fr. Caesar D’Mello